The NSPCC has this week launched a new whistle-blowing helpline for professionals who wish to raise concerns as to how child protection issues are being dealt with within their own or other organisations.

Helpline

The helpline which was commissioned by and is financially backed by the Home Office is a direct response to the Government’s Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation report and recent abuse scandals in which thousands of children were sexually exploited following a series of failures by various organisations.

The helpline will provide advice to employees who are afraid to raise concerns about the way their organisation is dealing with child abuse cases or has dealt with cases in the past and will help to protect employees who report concerns from workplace discrimination and other repercussions. Where a child is in immediate danger, the helpline will also take action such as referring cases onto the appropriate statutory body to ensure children who are at risk are adequately protected.

The helpline will be an important tool for professionals such as teachers, social workers and police officers who believe that complaints and concerns which relate to child safety have not been properly dealt with or that organisations have attempted to cover allegations up.

The helpline will hear calls about all concerns whether these happened in the past or are happening now or may occur at some point in the future.

Whistle-blowing

The NSPCC has called on professionals who believe that a child is at risk and have concerns as to how these concerns are being dealt with to contact the helpline as soon as possible. People are urged to call the helpline if they are aware or have reason to believe that:

  1. Their employer has not dealt with allegations of abuse properly or is looking to cover allegations of abuse up
  2. Their employer will treat them unfairly for making a complaint
  3. Their concerns have not been dealt with even though they have already spoken to their employer about their concerns

Callers to the helpline will be protected by law and should not be treated unfairly by their employer or lose their job because they have made a report to the helpline. Helpline operators will be able to provide further advice on whistle-blowing and the rights of employees who blow the whistle.

Essentially all whistleblowers will be protected if their disclosure relates to the following information:

  1. The health or safety of an individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered
  2. A criminal offence has been committed, is being or is likely to be committed

The helpline can be contacted by phone on 0800 028 0285. Alternatively, the helpline can also be contacted by email via the NSPCC website.

Reaction

NSPCC Chief Executive, Peter Wanless, has welcomed the creation of the helpline:

“If an employee thinks a child is in danger or has been failed by their organisation then nothing should stand in the way of them speaking out. Too often people with concerns have kept silent because they have been fearful of the consequences for their jobs, and this can have devastating consequences for the children involved.”

“A feature of the child abuse scandals of recent years has been people who said they thought something wasn’t right but were unsure whether they could discuss their concerns confidentially outside their organisation. The new whistle-blowing advice line is a vital new initiative and will provide a confidential, safe place for anyone who has concerns and wants support or advice.”

Karen Bradley, minister for preventing abuse exploitation and crime has expressed similar sentiments and described the helpline as “a vital service in our fight to end child abuse, including exploitation.”

“Every child deserves to be safe from abuse, and organisations that are trusted to protect our children must work as effectively as possible to achieve this”.

Rochdale abuse scandal

The helpline will build on lessons learnt as a result of child protection failures in Rotherham, Rochdale and other locations throughout England and Wales. It is a terrible shame that so many children have had to go through such terrible things for these lessons to be learnt.

Staff in Rochdale had repeatedly raised concerns that dozens of young girls were at risk of sexual exploitation throughout the area. These concerns were repeatedly ignored by managers, the police and other agencies.

The scale and prevalence of sexual abuse and exploitation in Rochdale finally came to light after Sara Rowbotham of the Rochdale Crisis Intervention Team blew the whistle to her local MP. Ms Rowbotham was given a platform to express her concerns to a parliamentary select committee whereupon her concerns were at last given credence. As a result of Ms Rowbotham’s disclosures, comprehensive investigations were carried out and a number of abusers were ultimately jailed.

It is important that professionals who are concerned with the manner in which child protection issues are being dealt remain free to blow the whistle. This is often a crucial step in ensuring that disclosures come to light so that authorities are able to act on concerns and children remain safe.

In cases where organisations have failed to properly deal with allegations of abuse and individuals went on to be abused as a result of this failure, individuals may be able to bring a claim for compensation against the organisation that failed them.